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Vibrant!

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This week’s photo challenge from WordPress is most welcome. They ask for something vibrant — the perfect antidote to a dreary February day! Never one to hold back from my friends in the blogosphere, I’ve selected a whole montage of cheerful and vivid memories from Maryland, New Hampshire, North Carolina, New Mexico, and Italy. Enjoy!

VICTORY!!

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Krista’s blog is about “running miles through the park, the forest, and on hot, dusty gravel roads, thrashing at black flies,” and finally obtaining “victory!” Except for the black flies, her imagery tracks with my reality about as much as the image of Donald Trump in the Oval Office, but just as I’m about to move on to a better waste of my “writing time,” I glance at Krista’s last line: “ . . . focus on the win, the victory — that moment of glory and pride you’ll remember forever.”

This is her WordPress photo challenge this week, and it’s an easy one for me.

The image came immediately to mind.

It wasn’t a marathon, but it felt like one. The only physical exertion involved was walking back and forth between the metro and the Johns Hopkins campus in D.C., occasionally hefting a beer mug with my fellow students, and typing, typing, typing.

And here is the result: it’s me in December 2013, mailing out my thesis on the last night of class in the Masters of Writing program at Johns Hopkins. I would have been proud of myself in any case, but given that I completed this whole program while taking care of my mentally ill brother who was on his way to the Great Beyond — thank God, unbeknownst to me or I might not have finished my degree — I am even more amazed at myself.

I Rock!

I Rock!

I can’t say I’m a smashing success as a writer (yet), but I’m slowly submitting my essays and collecting rejection letters for smug publication once I’m famous. Since graduating, I’ve closed my brother’s estate, am on the verge of closing my mom’s, did a ton of repairs on my little writing retreat in New Hampshire, and then, through no design of my own, became a pastor. So I’ve been doing some stuff, just not writing much beyond this blog. That’ll change soon, I hope. I’m ready for another shot of victory.

On to that Pulitzer!

Peace and Justice in Vivid Color

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Vivid — what a fine word. I think it’s a psychomime, also a very fine word. A psychomime is a word connoting the state or condition to which it refers, like mushy or funky, and is not to be confused with a phenomime, a word which brings to mind a psychological state or emotion, like maybe giddy. Not to be confused with the more familiar onomatopoeia that you learned in school, which refers to a word that literally sounds like what it describes, like whoosh or crack.

(You know it’s a questionable blog post when the second sentence leads to a serious digression which then necessitates an apologetic parenthetical phrase. Sigh – it’s Monday.)

Believe it or not, this isn’t going to be one of my wildly popular stream-of-consciousness posts about a favorite word, though my digressive mental state might indicate that it’s almost time for one.

No, this post is simply a response to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: the word vivid. So here is my photo:

Vivid!

Vivid!

I love, love, love this photo. It was a banner at the Wild Goose Festival last year, which is coming up again in July, and you really must come. I can almost promise it will change your life, especially if you’re feeling hopeless or sad or cynical, and who isn’t these days? The world’s about to blow up or melt down in any number of ways.

Wild Goose is a progressive (very) Christian event, but anyone might enjoy it — “the intersection of spirit, justice, music, and art.” This year’s theme is Blessed are the Peacemakers, and it fits right in with what my church has been talking about the last few months — social justice and how we as followers of Jesus can help bring light and reconciliation to a time of darkness and fear, instead of adding to the divisions and hatred as so many “Christian” politicians and media mavens sadly do. We’ve been talking about confronting and healing racism and war and violence and oppression and toxic religion.

So the word vivid resonates with me right now. I’m in the light, and I’m ready to hope again. I am coming out of my grief over my brother’s passing, beginning to de-clutter the depressing masses of stuff that somehow piled up around me while I was doing eight years of caregiving/grieving, and getting just the teensiest glimpse of the gifts I might bring to my new role as Pastor of Prayer and Healing at my church.

So yes, please: I want to “live out loud” in vivid color this summer.

Meet me at the Beer & Hymns tent at Wild Goose!

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, I will answer you: ‘I am here to live out loud.’”

– Emile Zola

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Illumination on the Porch

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I am not supposed to be blogging during this weekend writer’s retreat in the hills of Virginia.

The Porches Writing Retreat

The Porches
Writing Retreat

Seeking Focus and Illumination

I won’t say that blogging is not “real” writing, because I do not want to be drawn and quartered. But for me, personally, blogging is a different kind of writing. I do not spend time in mental and emotional preparation; I do not write and rewrite and revise and fuss. Blogging is more like journaling with (it is to be hoped) less navel-gazing. I don’t have to make myself sit down and focus on it – I have to drag myself away from it.

This weekend I’m to be focused on my “real” writing.

This weekend is about illumination. Finding my truth through the fog of everyday life.

Through the Fog

Through the Fog

So when I saw the Weekly Photo Challenge was Illumination, well, I just had to tap out a few words.

This morning I was up before dawn, sitting on the porch drinking black tea and watching the light break through the mist.

Sunrise at The Porches

Sunrise on the Porch

Illumination

Illumination

My friends and I arrived at The Porches last night and sequestered ourselves for several writing hours before coming back together in the kitchen to share a supper of soup and salad. We read some of our writing aloud, about Sylvia Plath, a guy masturbating in a movie theater, and the magic of a perfect sentence.

But I’m not supposed to be writing all this. Focus, Mel. I just wanted to share my photos and a bit of illumination that I had this morning.

Divine Dissatisfaction

I wrote once about a bittersweet elemental longing I find is brought on by the calls of migrating geese and migrating trains. This morning, I found this wonderful phrase that describes it:

Divine Dissatisfaction — don’t you love it?

Here is the full quote, which actually has nothing to do with geese or trains. It is included in the welcome packet at The Porches:

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and (will) be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is; nor how valuable it is; nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” 

Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille

Sitting on the porch, I pondered the idea of divine dissatisfaction and gazed at the brightening horizon. I heard a flock of geese approaching, their melancholy yet hopeful calls reaching me through the fog. In the distance, I could hear a train approaching, leaving behind and going towards.

And I must get to writing! May you be illuminated!

Chapel in the Fog

Chapel in the Fog

Birthing a Blog

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Birthdays are a time to reflect and take stock of where we are. For a two-month old, that wouldn’t normally entail much. But after traveling to forty-four different countries and being ogled almost two thousand times, my baby blog is no neophyte.

Hence, a moment of reflection on Writing with Spirit’s two-month birthday.

birthday cake large

First of all, thank you so much for reading, or even just for scanning, or glancing at my photos. Special gratitude to my forty-five “followers” (such an ostentatious phrase). I can’t tell you how much that means to someone who still doesn’t feel comfortable being labeled “a writer.” I’m sure some of you bloggers can relate.

Yesterday, I had a writerly moment. Unusually enough, an actual editor was waiting for one of my essays. I was ransacking my house looking for some lost interview notes I needed to revise the piece, when I remembered that I still had a tape recording of the interview.

Phew!

I unearthed the recorder, pressed play, and … nothing. The whole thing had been erased. This is not supposed to be possible, as in order to erase a file, you must provide two forms of ID, and then press three buttons simultaneously while reciting your social security number backwards in Swahili. Then the little screen says, “Are you sure you want to do this?” You say yes, and it says, “Really?” and you scream YES, DAMN IT, YES, YES, YES!!  So after my technology had betrayed me without so much as a PIN number, I was tossing papers into the air and cursing and even crying a few tears of frustration, when I suddenly stopped and thought –

Wow, I am a writer.

I don’t know why being thoroughly disorganized and panic-stricken matched my image of a writer, but there you have it. To complete the picture, I probably should have knocked back a tumbler of bourbon, neat.

I winged it and got the essay into the magazine editor. Nothing left but to wait for the rejection. (Even at my tender writing age, I’ve learned to be a cynic.)

All this to say that I think I’ve written more regularly in the past two months than I have since I started my writing career at Johns Hopkins University three years ago. A blog is great discipline. There’s accountability, even if it’s mostly in my head.

I’ve learned to observe more and to listen better, and life seems more interesting when I anticipate that I’ll be creating something fun out of it. Colors are more vivid, jokes are funnier, politicians are even more absurd.

The WordPress Photo Challenges were a wonderful surprise. I have thousands of fabulous pictures that I never share with anyone, and I’ve so enjoyed the challenges and the diverse group of people who “like” my photomontages. Even real photographers! I’ve tried mixing a little poetry with the pictures, which is new for me.

Another fun discovery has been all the good writing floating around in the blogosphere. I simply had not surfed around much before I started my blog.Wonderful fiction, poetry, writing advice, and travel adventures! Kudos, bloggers!

I am a Cat Person

I have, until now, resisted putting in a picture of my cat. But now that we’ve known each other for two months, it’s time. Isn’t she just the cutest?

Eliza Bean

Sorry.

On a more serious note, authenticity being good for the soul, I have shared some traumatic truths about sexual harassment and my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/rubber-ducky-exposes-cia-sexual-harassment/

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/10/03/hey-girl-youre-bald/

I’ve talked about life and death and politics and a way more eclectic collection of topics than I had planned on, from God to climate change to Henry James.

As I dimly recall, this blog was supposed to be primarily about spiritual and emotional de-cluttering. https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/emotional-house-cleaning/

Who knew how many synapses and leaps across random neural pathways that would involve?

Thanks for being along on the journey. And thanks for coming to the birthday party.

Tell me, WordPress compatriots: what have you learned since your blog was birthed??

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